skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Analysis of data by computer

It has sometimes happened that research students spend two or more years collecting large amounts of data before considering the problems of analysing that data and with little understanding of their statistical or computing needs. In a disturbing number of cases the proposed analysis has subsequently had to be severely restricted or even abandoned.

The data may be too massive to handle; more often some essential measurements have been not been made, survey questions are ambiguous or otherwise defective, or samples are of insufficient quality or size. Sometimes the standard statistical or numerical methods and the available computer programs are inadequate and the development of suitable techniques would of itself provide a PhD project.

Serious problems can also arise from the use of inappropriate computer software for data analysis. This can lead to results that are demonstrably incorrect or at least suspect, besides risking unfavourable comment from referees and reviewers. For example, statistical procedures provided by spreadsheet and database packages are best treated with caution. Though convenient for commercial use (for which they are chiefly intended), these might not meet the standards required for academic research. They might be based on poor numerical techniques leading to inaccurate statistics, their limitations might be poorly documented if at all, and essential supplementary tests might be omitted. Such packages can be very useful for data entry and management, but for statistical analysis it is always advisable (and often easier) to use software written for the purpose by a reputable specialist manufacturer.

University staff, research workers, and supervisors of research students are urged to ensure that methodological and computing requirements for data analysis are thoroughly evaluated at an early stage in the planning of any relevant project and certainly before any substantial resources are spent in collecting data. If necessary, advice should be sought. This is particularly important in the Arts and Social Sciences, where data are intrinsically very complex.

UIS Service Status

Phone padded  Service status line: (01223) 463085
Website  Sign up for SMS/email status alerts
Website  Read major IT incident reports

UIS bITe-size bulletin


A regular newsletter aimed at the University's IT community, highlighting service and project news from UIS.

Sign up >  |  Back issues

RSS Feed Latest news

Be on the alert for phishing and malware emails

Aug 10, 2020

University email accounts are currently receiving a high number of convincing phishing emails that contain attached files – typically Word documents – or a link to a website prompting the viewer to download a file. If opened, these files lead to a malware infection.

Maximum 1-year validity for TLS/SSL certificates from 1 September

Aug 04, 2020

All Certificate Authorities are required to stop issuing 2-year TLS/SSL certificates from 1 September 2020.

View all news